There is much to think about in preparation for reopening non-essential. Parking may not be at the top of the list for most, but for many shoppers the parking facility is still the beginning and end of the customer experience. The challenge for all retail destinations will be re-establishing loyalty from consumers who have adjusted to online shopping and staying away from public spaces.
With regards to parking, the question is: how can centre management teams get customers back into their specific car park rather than one at a neighbouring retail destination, and how can they use parking to reconnect with shoppers and ultimately support their retail tenants?
“It starts with parking being immersed in the customer experience,” says parking control expert APT Skidata’s managing director, Steve Murphy. Customers, he says, want to park quickly and efficiently, and that the right application of technology and digital tools invariably hold the key to achieving this.
Most shoppers will have decided where they want to park before they have even set off from home. “We all have our number one place unless it is full, but what makes somewhere our number one place?” Murphy asks.
“It could be how clean the car park is, the lighting, the signage and or bay monitoring that guides us to an available space. But there are other considerations around tickets and payments which are making it high up the decision process of where to go.”
He says that the key requests that they are hearing from the retail sector at present are for cashless, touchless, and ticketless parking, and that whilst shopping centres were already headed in this direction, the pandemic has been a catalyst for speeding up this development.
“Ultimately, over the next few years, we will see a shift to the next step which brings in digital solutions to help foster loyalty,” says Murphy.
APT Skidata recently launched an app called Path which shopping centres or car park operators can join, or take a fully branded version of the app using their own logos and colour scheme and make it available on the app stores. Path, has multiple modules set up which can be configured to create a customised parking app suited for different types of car parks.
For a shopping mall, he says, this is likely to be a module that allows customers to store their payment card details and licence plate for a quick payment at every visit or, with our Autopay enabled, they can use their licence plate for quick entry and exit without even touching a payment machine.
By also adding in the Loyalty module, schemes can use push notifications to encourage registered users to come back to the mall by offering, for example, discounted parking. “Having the right parking app allows you to communicate directly with customers and incentivise repeat visit,” says Murphy.
Regardless of the different types of customers you are attracting, he says, the retail parking journey plays a key role in their overall customer experience. Parking has moved beyond the parking equipment that customers are accustomed to seeing.
“It is the digital tools that support the parking systems that add real value, and which support not only the car park team but also the centre management who can be confident that their centre is providing the best experience from start to finish,” he adds.
This story was originally published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Subscribe here.